This year’s Labour Party Conference was the busiest in recent memory as businesses, party members and the media flocked to Liverpool in the hope of getting a clearer look at Labour’s plans for government.

This turnout illustrated the dramatic change that Labour has gone through since Keir Starmer took over, as well as the scrutiny that it is under now it is making a more serious case for power. There was also a palpable sense of togetherness and discipline, signs of a party that has a singular focus on winning the next General Election.

As with any party putting forward its case to govern, Labour has been under pressure to make big policy announcements on which people, and crucially business, can make longer term decisions. While it was always unlikely to give too much away at this point, Conference saw announcements on clearing NHS backlogs, driving development and the building of affordable homes and a plan to upgrade the energy grid to facilitate progress towards net zero goals. The Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, took centre stage on Business Day and promised “iron discipline” when it comes to managing the country’s finances, and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper echoed Blair’s approach to be tough on crime and its causes.

Starmer’s speech was the hot ticket on Tuesday with queues snaking around the conference centre as delegates waited patiently to hear from the man who could well be the UK’s next Prime Minister. One commentator suggested that the speech had ‘subtle notes of Callaghan ‘76’ to it, a nod to then-Prime Minister Jim Callaghan saying, in his 1976 Conference speech, that “Labour was elected to heal that terrible wound which Tory obstinacy had inflicted on the nation.” Starmer’s underlying theme was to frame Labour as the party that is ready to bring the country back from thirteen years of Conservative “chaos” and deliver a “decade of national renewal.” This exemplified an unflinching willingness to criticise the current government, and led towards a rallying cry preparing the party for what will be a challenging election campaign which feels like it may not be all that far away.

Starmer stated that Labour would fight the next election on economic growth, and the speech featured all the requisite political buzzwords to support that; productivity, opportunity, investment, skills. If this is to be successful, Labour will want to be able to speak to an international business audience who need more than just rhetoric to invest their capital in the UK. At the same time, business has the chance to influence and shape policy in a way that has not been possible in the latter years of a Conservative government that has frustrated the corporate world with its increasing lack of interest in their operations or aspirations.

Policy and pledges aside, the most striking thing about his speech was how Starmer channelled the energy and confidence that has prevailed across this years’ Conference to command the stage and the audience in a way that he has seldom done to this point in his leadership. Having to remove his jacket before starting, thanks to a dusting of glitter from a protester who made it onto the stage, seemed to relax the Labour leader. It revealed a more open and passionate side to him, with an added element of determination and vigour that has been missing in the past. Starmer is still not the finished article, but this performance was certainly a big step in the right direction and will stand him in good stead as a campaign draws closer.

Labour has transformed from a divided, fractious party into one that is now taking itself seriously and receiving much of the same from business and the media. Its challenge now is to translate this positive sentiment into language that cuts through to the broader public. The polls are narrowing and suggest that, despite the challenges being faced by the Conservative government, Labour still has work to do to convince people it is fit to govern. This week in saw that process start in earnest. Starmer has come out swinging and given the country its best idea to date of the kind of Britain he wants to build.